Newly opened in October 2017, the Walthamstow Wetlands, London are one of the city’s newest eco-friendly places to visit. The wetlands are a sanctuary for migrating, wintering and breeding birdlife as well as a beautiful place to explore alongside some of London’s reservoirs. Here are some of the best things to do at Walthamstow Wetlands and tips for planning your visit.
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Walthamstow Wetlands, London
The Walthamstow Wetlands are London’s newest and largest Wetlands. Located in the River Lee valley, the area is strategically important for wildlife. They are the perfect spot if you find yourself in need of fresh air and nature, but can’t head far out of London.
The Wetlands make for a great outing if you feel in need of an escape from the city, some fresh air, a chance to reconnect with a bit of nature, or just enjoy being out in open spaces.
Part of the larger Walthamstow Marshes area, the Wetlands are made up of a series of water reservoirs and are a great spot to see birds and other water-wildlife. I found it amazing to see the variety of birds that come and settle in the wetlands in what feels like a semi-rural setting in the centre of the city.
Conservation and Re-Wilding at the Wetlands
The Walthamstow Wetlands are a Lottery and Publicly funded project that opened to the public for the first time in October 2017. The site is a 211 hectare area Thames Water Reservoir site which serves as a water supply for as many as 3.5 million Londoners. The opening of the Wetlands is a result of partnerships with Thames Water the local council, and the London Wildlife Trust, who have spearheaded conservation efforts.
The Wetlands are a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the range of birdlife that visit or make their home here. The reservoirs are a haven for overwintering wildfowl, and are important for breeding birds such as the grey heron, tufted duck and little egret. Other birdlife such as Swifts visit during the spring and kingfisher and peregrine falcon can be seen all year round.
Ongoing conservation work – largely powered by volunteers – is ongoing to promote the richness of vegetation surrounding the reservoirs and protecting the wildlife species that make their home or visit here.
Things to do at the Walthamstow Wetlands
There’s plenty to keep you busy for several hours at the Wetlands – even if the weather isn’t playing ball! I visited during winter on a sunny day and was lucky to be blessed with crisp views over the reservoirs back to the city of London.
The Engine House Visitor Centre and Cafe
The main Visitor Centre (free access) is housed inside the Engine House, at the entrance to the Walthamstow Wetlands.
The Engine House was built in 1894 and was previously known as the Ferry Lane Pumping station. It served as the main pumping point to move water from the reservoirs into London’s water systems. There are exhibitions on how the pumping station worked (it’s no longer in use) as well as plenty of information here about the wildlife that can be found in the Wetlands at different times of year.
The Engine House is also home to a cafe and shop. The cafe serves fresh lunches and teas with ingredients sourced from local producers and is well worth a pit stop! The shop sells a range of gifts and products ranging from locally produced honey and artisanal crafts to books about birdlife.
Cycling and Walking in the Walthamstow Wetlands
You can cycle and walk and run the Wetlands so long as you stick to the designated parks – in order to protect the wildlife. The perfect way to explore the wetlands is to amble around – soaking up the calls of the birds and other animal life.
Fishing at the Walthamstow Wetlands
Angling is a popular pursuit at the wetlands given that many of the reservoirs are generously stocked with fish including carp and brown and rainbow trout. Anglers need to obtain a fishing permit for the day and must also be in possession of an Environment Agency rod licence.
Art Exhibitions and Events
The Wetlands run a number of events – from photography courses and classes, to art workshops, to walking meditations, to family days. There are also different art exhibitions that change regularly and an artist in residence – the displays are housed inside the Engine Room visitor centre.
This grade two listed building (dating from 1864) is still in service today by Thames Water. As such it’s not accessible to the public but it makes for an interesting contrast
Volunteer at the Wetlands
There are opportunities for those who want to get involved in helping maintain the Walthamstow Wetlands (ask at the Visitor Centre) or alternatively for the under 25’s, the London Wildlife Trust has a Keeping it Wild Programme.
Visiting the Walthamstow Wetlands, London: Practical Information.
The Wetlands are open daily from 9.30am to 5pm, with the visitor centre and cafe open until 4pm. Admission is free of charge to the public.
The best way to get there from central London is to hop on the Victoria Line (underground) to Tottenham Hale. From Tottenham Hale the Wetlands are five minute walk. The entrance to the Wetlands is just opposite the Ferry Boat Inn pub.
Cycling and walking around the wetlands is encouraged, but dogs aren’t allowed inside the Wetlands (we guess they might upset the birds…).
Have you visited the Walthamstow Wetlands? What was your favourite thing to do? Let us know in the comments below!
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